Should I put a solid-state drive (SSD) into my new PC?

The answer to this question depends on what you're after - capacity or performance.

Question from today's mailbag:

I'm building a new PC and I'm wondering whether I should fit a regular hard drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SSD)? What hardware would you recommend?

The answer to this question depends on what you're after - capacity or performance.

If you're looking for capacity in the 1TB or above region, and you happen to have very deep pockets, you should not install an SSD. Even with the recent price bump following the Thai floods, high-capacity hard drives are still the most economical option.

Shop around and you can pick up a 2TB bare drive with no retail packaging for around $130, such as the Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARX. If you want 3TB of capacity then you're looking at spending $200 for something like the Seagate Barracuda ST3000DM001. If you want a 4TB drive then you'll have to pay a premium and spend around $370 for the Hitachi H3IK40003254SW.

If you want performance then you need to go for a solid-state drive. These things vary tremendously in price and since you've not said that you are building a 'monster' high-performance PC, I would keep the budget to a sensible level.

You can pick up a good all-purpose 120GB SSD for around $160. Forget terabyte SSDs unless you've got a huge amount of money to burn. I recommend looking at either the OCZ Vertex 3 VTX3-25SAT3-120G or the OCZ Agility 3 AGT3-25SAT3-120G, as both are excellent drives. Anything much larger than 120GB, and the drives start to get really expensive.

If you were looking for a compromise, then my advice would be to fit one of each type of drive. Load your operating system and applications onto the SSD for maximum performance and use the HDD for storage. That way you get the best of both worlds while keeping the budget at a manageable level.

Image creditsWestern Digital/OCZ.